03/11/2003 12:00AM

Trainers keep eye to sky


ALBANY, Calif. - The weather could be a key factor in determining which horses are in the field for Sunday's $150,000 Grade 3 Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap.

With a weekend storm looming, trainers were hesitant about committing to the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Only two horses, both locally based, are listed as definite for the race. Ninebanks, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, and the Dennis Ward-trained Surprise Halo will run.

Most trainers are like Gloria Buckridge, who is considering entering Capt. Fly Hook.

Her perspective on the weather is a bit different than the other trainers. She wouldn't mind bad weather for her horse, the lightweight at 114 pounds.

"We thought we'd like to take a shot," Buckridge said. "The field might come up a bit short if the weather is bad."

Highweights Blue Stellar (119) and Royal Gem (118) from the Bobby Frankel barn are still listed as possible. Wally Dollase said last weekend Irish Warrior would run, but he said Tuesday he would look at the weather before making a final decision.

Saturday's $75,000 California Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on the main track looks as if it will have a full field with highweights Lucky Sabre (120) and Maddie's Charm (119) both scheduled to run. Both fillies have won one-mile stakes races at the meet.

Souvenir's Lad returns in sprint

Five 3-year-olds compete in Thursday's feature, a $50,000 optional claiming race at six furlongs. None is entered for a tag.

The race marks the return of Souvenir's Lad for trainer Jeff Bonde. The colt won his debut in a two-furlong race last March 28 and ran in the $121,000 Three Chimneys Juvenile at Churchill Downs in his next start.

Breaking from post 13, he was nine wide down the backstretch and never factored in a seventh-place finish. He shows a pair of five-furlong bullet workouts, as well as a 1:11.80 bullet at the race distance.

Raise the Heat, claimed for $50,000 from a Santa Anita victory Feb. 14 by leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, is the lone runner with two victories.

* The annual Kentucky Derby drawing to benefit the Glen Ellen Vocational Academy equine retirement foundation is under way. Donations are $10 per ticket or 12 tickets for $100. For information, call (888) 527-8092 or e-mail gef@vom.com. The drawing will be held April 19.